Posts Tagged ‘Mavs’

Rockets back to spinning wheels again

HOUSTON — This is the game the Rockets have chosen to play. Go Fish at a high-stakes poker table.

It was less than a week ago when Dealin’ Daryl Morey bet on a starting lineup that would have included Dwight Howard, James Harden, Chris Bosh, Chandler Parsons and Patrick Beverley.

Sometimes you draw to a busted flush.

Bosh spurned the Rockets’ $88 million, four-year offer to stay in Miami for $118 million. Simple math.

Now Parsons walks up I-45 to Dallas for $46 million over three years. Simple gaffe.

The Rockets could have kept Parsons for the upcoming season for the final year on his rookie contract, roughly $964,000. But the team chose not to pick up the option in order to keep the right to match any offer that he received. Then they didn’t.

Nice season the Rockets had there in 2013-14. They won 54 games, grabbed the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference and were feeling pretty good about themselves until nobody covered Damian Lillard with 0.9 seconds to play.

But when the heartache of that Game 6 loss and sudden ouster in Portland finally faded, there was reason to look ahead. Until this. Now the Rockets are back on the hamster wheel making no progress.

No offense to Trevor Ariza, but he doesn’t move the Rockets up in the West pecking order, doesn’t move the overall program forward.

Then again, the Rockets don’t actually have a program other than to keep swapping names and players and draft choices and salary cap spaces like trading cards. For a fellow who looked like the smartest guy in the room last summer when he landed Howard, Morey celebrates the first anniversary of that coup by telling Houston fans: “See you next summer. Please.”

While the Spurs win their fifth championship in 15 years by building a sense of family and togetherness, the Rockets are like the guy dealing three-card monte on the sidewalk, looking to just outsmart all of the other saps. They’re not looking for a path to long-term stability and success, just shortcuts to the top.

The Rockets brass reportedly also did not believe that a core lineup of Howard, Harden and Parsons was a championship contender. They wanted and needed Bosh with his champion’s pedigree because there remain serious questions about whether Howard or Harden can ever be the lead horse to pull a wagon. So how good is that lineup without Parsons?

The Rockets did not match the Dallas offer to Parsons because they did not want it to eat up too much of their payroll, so they could jump back in and play this game again next summer.

How do you develop real fan loyalty when you keep asking them to trust you and trust you and trust you for a future that’s out there in a world of analytics and promises beyond the stars?

What’s there to sell? Salary cap space, trade exceptions, maybe another video display on the front of the Toyota Center where they could photoshop LaMarcus Aldridge or LeBron James into the jersey of another current player next July.

Hopefully, that cap space and trade exception can come off the bench for some significant minutes, because in all of the grand hustle, an already thin roster became positively anorexic with the leaving of Jeremy Lin, Omer Asik and Parsons.

There was a palpable sense of shock and betrayal in Houston when Bosh — who definitely played the flirting game — did not jump into the Rockets’ arms as soon as James announced his return to Cleveland.

But there is no room here for hurt feelings. The Rockets, just like the Heat with LeBron, have to know and understand this game they like to play is the equivalent of a pickup in a singles bar. Sure, we can have some fun. But did you really think we were getting married?

It’s all those fans that keep going home alone at closing time who get stuck with another tab.

Mavs blow it, then win It vs. Blazers

VIDEO: Mavericks win wild one against Blazers

DALLAS – The Dallas Mavericks described their listless defeat at Denver on Wednesday night as embarrassing. What might have they called losing to the Portland Trail Blazers after leading by 30?

Because they did indeed upchuck a 30-point cushion and it wasn’t looking pretty as they trailed 98-92 with 4:26 to go. Ultimately, Dallas avoided the humiliation of a super-sized “L” lassoed around their throats. What would have gone down as the largest lead tossed aside on their home floor in franchise history turned into the strangest of comeback wins, an 11-0 spurt down the stretch securing a 103-98 win the hard way.

“We’ve been blowing leads all year,” Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said, leaving the carnage of five blown leads of at least 17 points unspoken. “We’ve blown a lot of big leads, so this is one of the realities that we face with this team, and we’re going to keep working to prevent it from happening next time. That’s all we can do, that’s all we can do. … With 19 games left, we’ve got to work to prevent because tonight, if you talk about doing it the hard way, there’s no harder way to do it than tonight.”

Dallas built a 40-10 lead and then was outscored 79-42 and trailed 89-82 with 8:36 left in the game.

Five times this season Dallas has blown leads of at least 17 points. Just a few nights ago inside the American Airlines Center, Joakim Noah and the Chicago Bulls crushed a 16-point first-half deficit and beat Dallas. Afterward, Dirk Nowitzki said he almost wished they hadn’t of built such a big lead so early.

He’ll also recall the 21-point bulge the Mavs had in the first quarter at Toronto on Jan. 22 and eventually lost. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been overly shocking since Dallas led the Raptors by 19 in Dallas and sill lost.

The worst relinquished lead, though, had to be that January night in Los Angeles against the Clippers. The Mavs were burying the Clips in the fourth quarter and cruising toward a huge road victory. They led 123-106 with 4:35 to go and lost in a wild ending, 129-127.

This one was equally crazy in the final minutes. Portland wasn’t amused that Dallas got into the bonus basically three minutes into the fourth quarter, and then a close blocking call on Damian Lillard with 24.6 seconds left in a tie game allowed the driving Devin Harris to complete a three-point play for a 101-98 lead.

“I didn’t agree with the call,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said not surprisingly. Lillard agreed. Harris, also not surprisingly, said he didn’t believe Lillard had squared his shoulders, therefor the proper call was executed.

“A charge or a no-call, yeah,” Stotts said of what should have been where he stood. “It was [a big play]. I’m not going to complain about the officials. I disagree with the call. It was the play of the game because it was a tie game and a three-point play. It changes everything.”

But it wasn’t the only play. The Blazers couldn’t miss in the third quarter, shooting 63.6 percent to win the quarter 36-18. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 18 of his game-high 30 points in the period. But in the final 4:26, Portland failed to score on nine consecutive possessions and Aldridge missed his last five shot attempts after his alley-oop dunk gave the Blazers a 98-92 lead. He couldn’t convert late near the hoop in all manner of traffic and Aldridge couldn’t believe he didn’t hear a whistle.

“I definitely felt like there were some calls that they got earlier that I didn’t get late,” Aldridge said. “The one that Dirk pump-faked and the guy went up in the air, I did it in the paint, they didn’t call it. I feel like one of the offensive rebounds I got hit a few times, so I mean, I don’t know, but I have to be better in the stretch.”

With 19 seconds left and the Blazers needing a 3 to tie, there was a cross-up and Aldridge threw the ball out of bounds, effectively ending any chance of coming back in a game they had already come back from down 30.

“I had some big miscues down the stretch,” the Dallas native Aldridge acknowledged. “I missed some shots down the stretch, so you know, fighting all the way back and being up and having an opportunity to win — not taking care of business.”

Nowitzki, On An Expiring Contract, Reacts To Kobe’s Extension


VIDEO: Dirk Nowitzki passes Kevin Garnett for 14th on the NBA scoring list.

DALLAS – With Kobe Bryant‘s extension finalized, Dallas’ Dirk Nowitzki is the next aging superstar headed for a pay cut in his next, and possibly final, deal.

Nowitzki, 35, is in the last year of his contract that pays him $22.7 million, second-highest in the league this season behind Bryant’s $30.5 million. Unlike Bryant, who agreed Monday to a two-year, $48.5 million extension, Nowitzki plans to let his contract expire before negotiating a new deal with Dallas owner Mark Cuban this summer. Also unlike the Los Angeles Lakers future Hall of Famer, Nowitzki appears accepting of a steeper pay cut than Bryant, one more in line with the three-year, $36-million deals Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan agreed to two summers ago.

“Obviously, it’s good for Kobe,” said Nowitzki, who passed Garnett Monday for 14th place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. “That’s a lot of money for a 35-year-old, but if one guy earned it, it’s definitely Kobe.”

In the summer of 2010, Nowitzki left $16 million on the table when he signed a four-year, $80 million deal to stay in Dallas. That season he led the Mavs to the franchise’s lone championship and was named the Finals MVP after defeating the Miami Heat. Now, Nowitzki is just looking to get back into the playoffs with a roster that includes only Shawn Marion from the title team.

How the Mavs fare this season and then during next summer’s free agency period, where they’ve failed to land Deron Williams and then Dwight Howard the last two summers, could ultimately dictate Nowitzki’s price tag for the coming two to three seasons.

“I have no idea at this point,” Nowitzki said. “My contract is coming off, ‘Trix [Marion] is coming off, Vince [Carter] is coming off and so there’s a lot of money under the cap to make this team better. Like I said, this is Game 13 or 14 of the season, I’m more worried about [this] season than July.”

Bryant will earn $23.5 million in 2014-15 and $25 million (the collective bargaining agreement’s built-in, 7.5 percent pay raise). His salary next season will reflect about a 21 percent pay cut from this season, but the cost remains high enough that it will prevent the Lakers from having the available cap space to sign two max-level free agents. They will have room to sign one, but then little space to do much after that.

In 2012, both Garnett, then with the Boston Celtics, and Duncan with the Spurs, essentially accepted pay cuts of 50 percent from the previous season. Garnett went from a salary of $21.2 million in 2011-12 to $11.6 million in 2012-13. He will make $12.4 million this season and is due $12 million in the final year of his contract. Duncan went from $21.2 million in 2011-12 to $9.6 million last season, $10.4 million this season and $12.5 million in 2014-15.

Nowitzki, who will eclipse $200 million in career earnings this season, his 16th, has stated for some time now that he plans to work with Cuban on a deal that is fair but also helps the franchise maximize its cap space to attract and sign top-level free agents.

“I don’t really want to look forward too much,” Nowitzki said. “I’m not going to extend, obviously. I want to play the season out and then we can talk about the summer. I want to have a good season. I want to have an injury-free season and then [his coach/agent] Holger’s going to take his leather coat and meet with [Cuban] in the bunker suite and we’ll go from there.”

Holger is Holger Geschwindner, Nowitzki’s longtime personal coach from Germany and de facto agent. The reason for not following Garnett, Duncan and now Bryant with an extension, could be two-fold: Cuban prefers to allow contracts to expire, and Nowitzki can gauge how the roster shapes up during the summer before agreeing to years and a dollar figure.

“For me, I want to go back to the playoffs with this team,” Nowitzki said. “We have a real shot at it and that’s really what I’m focused on. I’m not really worried about extensions at this point.”

Ellis Shot Answers Prayer, Not Question

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HOUSTON — A week ago nobody could figure out the Bucks. It seemed they had spent most of trade deadline day trying to trade Monta Ellis to Atlanta for Josh Smith and, when that failed, added another guard in J.J. Redick.

Can you spell “crowded backcourt?” Redick joined Ellis and Brandon Jennings in what looked like the kind of traffic jam that could tie up an intersection, let alone a team trying to hang on in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“I don’t know what Milwaukee is doing,” Charles Barkley said on TNT. “They are just trying to cover the market on guards.”

The rest of the pundit class joined in a collective scratching of heads.

On Wednesday night, the Rockets were left scratching their heads when Jennings almost held onto the ball a half-tick too long, finally got it to Ellis and he put up a running, one-legged, one-armed turnaround that practically licked all of the paint off the rim before falling in to give the Bucks a 110-107 win.

It was the second time in two nights that Ellis played key role down the stretch. Coach Jim Boylan had sat Jennings for the final 3:32 on Tuesday night in Dallas and used Ellis to close out a win in Dallas. He finished with 22 points, nine assists and six steals against the Mavs. In Houston, Ellis racked up 27 points, 13 assists and six steals.

“I play basketball. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do,” Ellis said in Dallas.

“I just got the shot off and got out of there,” Ellis said in Houston.

Nothing really has changed about Ellis’ game since the trade deadline. He’s still the most indiscriminate shooter in the league, hitting just 9 of his 24 shots against the Rockets, and that horn-beating prayer truthfully wasn’t much of a stretch from some of the others he’s hoisted along the way.

The Bucks lost their first three games coming out of the All-Star break by a combined six points, including one overtime defeat. But now they’ve taken a mini-sweep through Texas because the player they tried to trade away and who could opt out of his contract next summer, has given them the kind of sudden charge that usually comes from grabbing onto a high voltage wire.

So Ellis can bolt from Milwaukee if he wants; Redick might just be a short-term rental until he becomes a free agent in July; the starting point guard Jennings has got to wonder if he’ll watch end of any more games from the bench as the backcourt resembles a crowded elevator at quitting time. Oh, and the question remains how the deadline deal really made the Bucks any more capable of knocking off Miami or Indiana in the first round of the playoffs.

While everyone else is trying to figure out the strategy of the front office, all the Bucks are trying to do is win enough games to maybe catch Boston for the No. 7 seed.

Shocked? Only the guy who provided the electricity isn’t.

As the referees gathered ’round a TV monitor to review the final shot and some of his celebrating teammates returned to the floor to wait for an official ruling, Ellis was out the tunnel and gone without checking.

“I didn’t need to,” he said. “The buzzer went off when it was rolling around the rim. There was no need for me to come back out … I didn’t need [any] explanation.”

Despite all the coast-to-coast puzzlement at the trade deadline, apparently neither do the Bucks.

Cousins’ Routine…Ba-Dump…Old Joke

 

HANG TIME, Texas – Stop me if you’ve heard this one: A priest, a rabbi and DeMarcus Cousins are sitting on a bench…

Yeah, it’s getting to be the kind of stale old joke that sounds like it came out of the Catskills in the 1950s.

Cousins is at the center of another flap. This time the Kings’ leading scorer and rebounder was left in the locker room at halftime Friday night following a verbal run-in with coach Keith Smart.

As a result, Cousins has been suspended indefinitely for unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team,” according to Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie.

Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee delivers the details that were available:

“It was conduct detrimental to the team and we left it at that,” Smart said without elaborating.

Smart did not say if Cousins would play Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers.

“I’m going to focus on (Friday night),” Smart said. “And then I’ll move forward to the next day.”

Cousins said he “was in the wrong” during halftime.

“What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room, but I was wrong,” Cousins said. “But what happens in the locker room stays in the locker room.”

Cousins then was asked what he could do to avoid further situations where attention was on his actions off the court.

“Don’t talk back,” Cousins said. “That’s the thing. I shouldn’t have responded back. Should have accepted what was said and stayed quiet.”

Of course, nobody has ever questioned the raw talent and ability that Cousins possesses, only the maturity and professionalism that he doesn’t.

As a potential foundation-type player on the front line, it was understandable that Kings management sided with Cousins and gave Paul Westphal the ax when the two of them couldn’t get along.

There may also be legitimate reasons to question whether Smart (73-134 career record) has the right stuff to be a successful coach in the NBA. But the main reason he was brought in to replace Westphal and had his contract extended was because he could supposedly relate to Cousins and steer him correctly and now that plan seem to have jumped off the tracks.

Already this season, Cousins has been suspended two games for confronting Spurs broadcaster Sean Elliott after a game, suspended another for whacking the Mavs’ O.J. Mayo in the groin and ejected in the third quarter of one more game for arguing calls by the refs. Now this.

More from Jones:

“We’re trying to set a standard for all of our players and all our guys who are here,” Smart said after the game. “When guys don’t fall in line to that we’ve got to move on.”

Smart intends to maintain this stance, too. You have to assume that means penalties will escalate if the behavior does not change.

Smart wouldn’t address whether Cousins would play in Sunday’s game against Portland. If he does, another blowup could mean suspensions for conduct detrimental to the team.

Cousins doesn’t believe Friday’s incident will be held over his head and that he and Smart can move past the incident.

“It happens all the time between players and coaches,” Cousins said. “I believe we’ll talk about it, get past it and we’ll move forward.”

Cousins can only hope. All of these shenanigans are overlooked if he were delivering like the punchline in the Kings’ lineup. But after a breakout season a year ago, Cousins has not only reverted to troublesome form with his behavior, but his play has deteriorated as well, not concentrating on defense and taking far too many bad shots.

Could Cousins simply be tiring of the losing atmosphere in Sacramento and trying to force the Kings to ship him out of town?

We can only assume that he knows the rest of the NBA gets LeaguePass. The offers coming in at this point for a mediocre malcontent would hardly make the Kings want to jump at this point.

So DeMarcus Cousins walks into a bar with a parrot on his shoulder…

You’d think at 22, he’d be too young to become an old joke.

Is Third Time (And Improved Defense) Charm For Blazers’ Stotts?





It’s a homecoming of sorts for Terry Stotts to take his Blazers into Dallas, the place where he spent the previous four seasons and was part of the Mavs’ championship in 2011. It will feel warm and familiar.

But it is also the place where Stotts’ view of the game took a transformation that could make him more successful in his third time around than in his previous two stints as coach at Atlanta (52-85, .380) and Milwaukee (63-83, .432).

More than anything else, coach Rick Carlisle is about defense.

“I think the background having been with Rick the last four years kind of opened my eyes to another approach to the game,” Stotts said. “Obviously, being with George (Karl) as long as I was, that was one view. To have a different perspective that was with Rick kind of expanded my horizons. (more…)

Knicks, Wolves Pursuing Barea

– For the latest updates check out: NBA.com’s Free Agent Tracker

A source close to free agent guard J.J. Barea said Saturday that the Knicks and Timberwolves are both in pursuit of the 27-year-old, who starred in the postseason last spring during the Mavericks’ run to the NBA title.

The Knicks, according to the source, offered Barea a two-year deal. By using the amnesty provision on Saturday to waive guard Chauncey Billups and dealing forward Ronny Turiaf to Washington as part of the three-team deal that sent Tyson Chandler to New York, the Knicks technically fell under the cap, and thus lost their ability to use the mid-level exception starting at $5 million. They could use the new “room” exception for teams that are below the tax threshold that starts at $2.5 million.

Minnesota has not made a specific offer to Barea, though they are talking about contract parameters that would be in excess of the “room” amount, the source said. The Timberwolves could be looking for a mentor for their high-profile rookie guard Ricky Rubio, who finally came over to the NBA after starring in Europe as a teenager. Rubio was taken fifth overall by the Wolves in 2009 but remained in Europe until this summer.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks, keeping with their desire to maximize their cap space for the summer of 2012, have only offered Barea a one-year deal, the source said. That decision left Barea feeling “betrayed,” the source said.

Barea, who had become a key contributor for Dallas the past few seasons, was outstanding in the playoffs for the Mavericks, averaging 8.9 points and 3.4 assists in 18.6 minutes per game in the postseason. He shot almost 42 percent from behind the three-point line, and his 22-point, eight-assist effort in the clinching game over the Lakers in the second round so frustrated L.A.’s Andrew Bynum that Bynum cheap-shotted Barea in the closing minutes of the Mavericks’ Game 4 rout, earning an ejection and five-game suspension at the beginning of this season.

After waiving Billups, the Knicks clearly need help at the point. Their current starter is second-year guard Toney Douglas, though first-round pick Iman Shumpert could see some time there as well this season. And Barea would be an ideal distributor in Mike D’Antoni‘s high-octane offensive attack.

DeShawn better off DeSilent

DALLAS — You’d have to agree with everything DeShawn Stevenson said about LeBron James.

“He helped us out. When he’s like that, it’s good for us. It’s positive for us.”

Yes, LeBron played right into the Mavericks’ hands, collapsing in the fourth quarter like a bankrupt business in winter.

“I don’t think he was in the same attack mode as he usually is.”

We’ve seen lambs in a more ferocious attack mode at a petting zoo than LeBron in Game 4.

“I don’t know what was happening.”

Join the crowd.

“He wasn’t himself.”

Clearly, he was someone else: Erick Dampier.

“He checked out.”

Yes, like a man with an alibi.

Repeat: Everything Stevenson said had the ring of truth. Here’s the problem: When a superstar just dug himself a hole the size of Dirk’s fever, it’s probably best to let him climb out of it without throwing him a rope. You know, the old let-sleeping-dogs-lie theory. Instead, DeShawn just gave LeBron some motivation to digest, if scoring 8 points in a playoff game wasn’t enough.

And also, it was DeShawn talking. They have a history, you know.

The player who once famously called LeBron “overrated” took it upon himself to be very honest about LeBron. Which is refreshing, really, it is. That said, his assessment of LeBron’s vaporization would serve him and the Mavericks better if it came at the conclusion of the series, so it can’t come back to bite DeShawn in the neck tattoo.

LeBron seemed to shrug it off.

“He’s been talking for a long time, since the old Washington-Cleveland days,” said LeBron, with a grin. “I don’t let that get to us. Talk is cheap. We don’t get caught up in that too much.”

DeShawn wasn’t the only Maverick trying to get into LeBron’s head (can they let us know what’s inside?). Jason Terry, always willing to express himself to anyone who’ll listen, spent a few minutes chirping at LeBron in Game 4. At least that seemed to fire up Jet more than James, because Terry had his best performance of the series.

The aftermath of LeBron’s lowest playoff moment ever was fairly routine, otherwise, at the team practices. Chris Bosh said he expected a more involved effort, as does everyone, the Mavericks included. Stevenson included.

“He’s a great player,” Stevenson said. “He’ll play harder. He has to. He has the same pressure as Jason Terry had.”

Uh, not quite.

LeBron has double.

Memphis-OKC: Small markets, big game


OKLAHOMA CITY – They know how the outside world will view them, as the annoying little brother, the other guys.

The Lakers vs. Mavs will have Kobe vs. Dirk, a pair of individual virtuosos and offensive machines who can melt scoreboards with their point production, not to mention Phil Jackson vs. Mark Cuban, who’ve both been known to intentionally start fires.

The Bulls vs. Hawks will have the continued ascension – and possibly the official coronation – of Derrick Rose into the realm of the elite as the youngest MVP in history and youngest player ever to make the entire horde of TV analysts run out of adjectives.

The Heat vs. Celtics will, of course, have enough breathless conversation to suck the air right out of the room.

Then there’s Grizzlies vs. Thunder. Oh yeah, them. No. 4 vs. No. 8 in the Western Conference, a matchup between two of the smallest markets in the NBA who’ll be lucky if anyone even notices they’re playing.

That is, until the ball goes up. Don’t make the mistake of grabbing the remote and changing the channel.

“I hope that people appreciate teams that play hard and play well together,” said the Grizzlies’ Shane Battier. “We may not have a whole lot of marquee names. But both Oklahoma and our team play very well together, play hard, play the right way. If you’re a basketball fan you should enjoy this series.”

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Another Mavs Playoff Meltdown

PORTLAND – The Dallas Mavericks have set foot on this scorched playoff earth before. So you’d think they would know how to avoid making the mistake again … and again .. and again.

Yet all the chatter coming from their locker room after their stunning meltdown and Game 4 loss to Brandon Roy and the Portland Trail Blazers was about how they “let their guard down” and “eased up” with a 23-point cushion late in the third quarter. The Blazers won 84-82 behind 18 fourth-quarter points from Roy.

Even Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle agreed that his team let off the gas with that big lead. “I think we let up a little bit,” Carlisle said. “I don’t think there’s any question.”

But that’s a convenient explanation for a team with as checkered a playoff history as the Mavericks have in recent years. They’ve been knocked out of the playoffs in the first round in three of the last four years.  You take nothing for granted with a resume like that.

They were 13 minutes and 19 seconds away from a commanding 3-1 series lead and a chance to close it out in Game 5 Monday night at home when it all fell apart.

They even managed to wake up the ghosts from their ultimate collapse in the 2006 NBA Finals, when they took a 2-0 series lead and city officials started planning parade routes only to see the Miami Heat stun them by winning four straight games and the Larry O’Brien trophy.

After doing basically whatever they wanted against the Blazers in the third quarter the Mavericks froze up in the fourth. While Roy was shredding them on the defensive end, they couldn’t find the basket on the other. They went eight straight possessions without so much as a free throw.

“It’s tough to find a word,” Dirk Nowitzki said, doing his best to make sense of yet another playoff meltdown. “It’s definitely a tough one to sit on. Now we have to fly home four hours on that one. Frustration is definitely at a high level.”

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